I came across an account a few months ago so large and unwieldy that the thought of optimizing it made my eyes water. What was so wrong with the account structure you ask? Nothing! By my own admission it was perfectly set up. Campaigns were set up along tight thematic lines, each campaign had a separate mobile and desktop version, and these were both doubled up into both a search and display campaign. Each of these campaigns was multiplied out fifty times – one version for every state in the US.

Let’s quickly do the math!

20 different products being advertised * 2 (mobile and desktop) * 2 (search and display) * 50 states = 4000 campaigns!

(FYI the current limit in AdWords is 10,000 campaigns)

Now while this campaign structure makes perfect sense in theory, in practice it is totally unwieldy and unmanageable. Unless you have a huge PPC team, you are going to have to spend most of your time fire fighting issues, forgetting ad tests, and wondering how many years it will take for your keywords to get enough clicks to produce statistical significance (hint = a long time).

So how am I supposed to organize my account I hear you cry. The trick is to keep things manageable! The first thing you need to decide is how many campaigns you think you could realistically manage effectively. Are you part of a large PPC team – then your answer is probably a lot more than if you are a marketing manager in charge of your company’s PPC, SEO, social media and PR campaigns. Second, think about the things that will have the biggest impact on your account? For a worldwide account, separate geo-targeted campaigns might be incredibly important. For an insurance company, you will be focused on the type of different insurance products you offer.

Why am I harping on about keeping things manageable? The easier it is to manage, the more ad testing you will be able to do, the more effectively you will be able to gather keyword conversion rate data, and the easier it will be to manage search terms and negative matches. There comes a point where over-structuring can do your account more harm than good. Let’s take a look at a few different approaches to laying out your account:

1. Thematically – By Product or Vertical

This is the most traditional way to organize your PPC account. After all, it’s the way Google tell you to do it! Having one campaign per type of product you sell makes a lot of sense – it helps you keep your keywords and ads highly relevant, which helps your quality score and click-through rates. On the other hand, if you sell a lot of similar products AND need to target people geographically, it might not be the best way to go to keep things easy to manage.

2. By User Intention

An alternative to the traditional thematic structure might be to organize your account by user intention. For example, you might have 3 campaigns:

  1. Customers ready to commit to a purchase with keywords such as [Buy Product], [Product for Sale] and [Where to buy product].
  2. Customers trying to make up their mind which product to buy – [Product Reviews], [Compare Product].
  3. Customers with much further to go along your sales funnel with a vague interest towards your product – [What is product], [Do I need product], [related similar product].

The benefit of this approach is that it allows you to optimize your bids and budget towards those keywords that will be much more likely to result in high conversion rates. It also allows you to have a clear and manageable strategy for dealing with research or general interest terms – low bids and budget, separated out – without having them distort your campaign statistics.

3. Geographically

Standard best practices will always tell you to separate out your campaigns by geographic region – the benefits of which are threefold: First, you can set bids according to the value of leads / sales from certain region. Second, you can use day parting more effectively – it could be that across the world people sign up to your site at lunch time. However if you have Australia, the UK and the USA in the same campaign, successful day-parting becomes very difficult to enact.

If you sell bagels, this might be an important target

4. By Match Type

The logic behind doing this is fairly similar to the ‘user intention’ point I made above. By having separate campaigns for your exact and broad match keywords you can control the proportion of your budget you are spending on your base list of keywords, and what percentage you are spending on broad matches designed at mining for new search queries. Typically I’d look to spend about 25% of your budget on your broad campaigns – but this will vary depending on your account goals and profitability.

5. By Top Performers

One of the best pieces of advice for PPC managers with pre-existing huge accounts is to split off your top performing keywords into their own campaigns. For example, one of my accounts had over 300,000 keywords in, of which roughly 60 accounted for 90 per cent of sales. By pulling out these top keywords into their own campaigns (There are 5 ‘Top Performer’ campaigns based on keyword themes), I was not only able to get a better feel for the performance changes in the account, but ad testing became much easier and more meaningful. It also enabled me to ring fence a budget for spending on keywords that I knew performed well, and create another smaller budget specifically for mining new keywords and sales avenues.

6. By Display Network Targeting Method

This is slightly separate but I wanted to mention it anyway. If display is really important to your account it might be a good idea to separate out each of your contextual, ICM, topic and managed placement targeting into their own campaigns. This affords you both clarity and control and should help you manage more effectively. Alternatively, on one account, we kept all of these targeting methods in different ad groups within the same campaign and had multiple campaigns for each demographic. My client found their ROI varied hugely between age ranges so this was the most sensible approach to keep our display campaigns manageable.

7. By Goal

Finally, organizing your campaigns by goal can also make a lot of sense when you have multiple goal types. Let’s say the fictional company ‘Jane’s wedding shop’ is looking at attracting regular customers, wholesale purchasers and people looking for wedding catalogues. For regular customers the goal is to make a sale through e-commerce. For wholesale buyers, Jane wants people to get in contact via a submission form. For people looking for a catalogue there is a download option that requires leaving a name and email address. The reason to organize your campaigns by goal rather than thematically in this case is that there might be a lot of overlap that confuses the issue – both wholesale and retail buyers might be searching for similar products – invitations, decorations, thank you cards etc.

By separating your campaigns by intention you are able to bid much more accurately (a large wholesale deal is going to be more valuable than a small retail sale). In this case you would likely use campaign level negative keywords (‘-wholesale’ in the retail campaign, ‘-my wedding’ in the wholesale one etc.) to funnel people into the right campaigns.

None of the above strategies are exclusive, so you can use them in combination with one another. As always, let us know in the comments if you have any quirky ways you like to organize your account to help keep it manageable.